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Healthy eating is a form of self-kindness


January 11, 2022 Jody Kachkar, Special to the ATA News


Some tips for keeping up your health and strength in the face of a crazy teaching year

Like most of you (I’m guessing), I have eaten (and drunk!) my feelings since March 2020. However, as I’ve gained weight and stress (and stress-related health concerns), I’ve come to realize that I must do a little better. 

Just recently, I read the book The Self-Care Solution by Jennifer Ashton. While not groundbreaking, her book is easy to read and doesn’t feel as toxically positive as some can. Essentially, each month for an entire year, she picks one healthy habit to add to her life. Many are simple, and the goal is improvement and then reflection. 

As a high school food studies teacher and home economist, I’m very aware of the connection between nutrition and health (and how I feel generally), but in the “crazy busy” stress of the last 18 months, it’s something I’ve fallen away from. Unfortunately, both my health and my waistline show that. 

First, it’s important to remember that there is no “one way” of healthy eating. We know this as teachers working with students. We accept and recognize good effort and encourage them when they mis-step. We need to offer this kindness to ourselves. There may be days you have popcorn for dinner. I do as well. It’s OK.

My approach to healthy eating comes from my days of raising a young person. As a step-parent, I wanted to make it easier to grab the healthier choice and more difficult to grab a treat. I also wanted to step away from reduction and restriction as they don’t offer me the kindness I need and deserve. 

As a first step, try adding more water and fruit or vegetables into your day. I really struggle with drinking water and find it even more difficult with mask wearing. So just recently I decided that in between classes and before and after school, I would focus on drinking smaller glasses of water. 

I’m lucky that in my foods lab at McNally High School, I have glassware, sinks, refrigerators and a dishwasher, so this was quite doable for me. For other teachers, it might be two or three smaller bottles of water or perhaps having a full and fresh water bottle in the car for the drive home. 

I spent some time trying out different water types – cold, sparkling, tap, room temperature, slices of cucumber, lemon, etc. I discovered I prefer basic tap water, just a little cooler than room temperature with no ice or extras. It was fun to experiment, and my students, in watching, offered a few suggestions. (Just an FYI, cinnamon sticks are weird. I don’t recommend them as an addition to water!)

I also told my family and my students what I was trying to accomplish. I didn’t need anyone to chastise me, but I realized that their knowledge would hold me more accountable. In the last few days, I’m feeling less tired and dehydrated at the end of the day. That feels like a win!

As for making healthier choices a bit easier (and more likely), I do a little bit of meal preparation prior to the start of each workweek. I find the beautiful and terrifyingly organized meal prep plans on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook just a little intimidating. I can’t give up an entire weekend afternoon to do meal prep, and I don’t want to eat the same thing for lunch several days in a row. All I do is prepare some cut-up fruit and vegetable sticks. It usually takes me about 30 minutes. I make sure that I have two or three fruit choices per day and at least one vegetable choice. I line up my snack bags or containers in the fridge and feel virtuous. I also fill my fruit bowl and set it out on the counter. 

Finally, know yourself. I have an entire mouth full of “sweet teeth” and, like my father, feel that no meal is complete without something sweet. You may not be that person, and if you don’t like sweets or dessert, I admire your self-control. I usually bake a lunch-box treat every other week or so but try to make it as healthy as possible. I generally have a few ripe bananas, so a chocolate chip banana “mini” muffin is enough to give me the sweet I want. 

Sometimes, though, nothing will do but chocolate cake. When that craving strikes me (as it did recently at 8 p.m.), I pull out a recipe that will make a single chocolate lava cake. I can mix the cake in the time it takes my oven to preheat, and it bakes in about 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, I have a cake to eat and enjoy! 

The banana muffin recipe below is my grandmother’s. I’ve adjusted it a little to make it a bit healthier and always add chocolate chips to it. They freeze well, and to make my life easier, I wrap them individually and store them frozen. If I put one in my lunch bag, it is thawed by lunchtime. The cake recipe comes from Joy the Baker, a food blogger and cookbook author ( ❚

Jodie Kachkar is a foods teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton.


Jodie’s Grandma’s Banana Muffins


  • 2 large bananas (or 3 smaller ones)
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) canola oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) flour (sub in up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) optional ingredient (chocolate chips, M&M’s, dried cranberries, etc.)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Lightly spray muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper liners.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the bananas and the sugar. Mash with a fork until smooth.

4. Add in the egg and oil and stir until smooth.

5. In a separate, large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine.

6. Make a well or crater in the dry ingredients.

7. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir 8 to 10 times. Add in the optional ingredient (if using) and stir until just mixed in.

8. Measure out 50 mL of muffin batter into each muffin cup for regular-sized muffins. If using a mini muffin pan, use about 2 tbsp of batter per mini muffin cup.

9. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until muffins spring back when poked lightly. 

10. Cool before storing. Can be frozen.


Joy the Baker’s Single Molten Chocolate Cake 


  • 1/2 tsp butter for greasing baking dish, 1 tbsp butter for cake batter
  • 1 tsp cocoa for dusting baking dish
  • Heaping 1/4 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet is best)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter, optional (tahini might be a nice substitute but can be left out)
  • Splash of bourbon, optional (I put in vanilla here)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a ¾ cup white ramekin (or very small 1 cup-sized baking dish). Dust with cocoa powder and dump excess powder out. Set dish aside.

2. Melt the 1 tbsp butter and chocolate chips together. Use your preferred method (the website gives you some options). I used the microwave, but watch you don’t burn your chocolate!

3. Whisk in the egg, sugar and peanut butter (if using) into the chocolate mixture. Add the bourbon or vanilla if you like. Stir in the salt and flour until just combined. Pour batter into prepared ramekin.

4. Bake for 7–10 minutes for a molten centre (a ¾ inch ring around the edge will look dull and baked) or 10–12 minutes for a soft centre (cake edge will puff slightly). Everyone’s oven will bake differently, so watch carefully.

5. Let cake cool 2–3 minutes. Protecting hands with a towel or oven mitts, invert onto a plate or enjoy right out of the baking dish. Eat right away and enjoy warm.

Go to the link for more pictures of each step. 

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